Spiraling Downward in an Ever Increasing Vortex of Violence and Evil......or are we?
The inexplicably senseless and sorrowful events that transpired in Newtown, CT last week are a sure sign that man's cruelty towards man has reached new and heretofore unthinkable levels.
Or have they?
Never before have we seen such unmitigated violence towards children, as unconscionable a crime as one could ever fathom much less perpetrate.
Or have we?
As alarm clocks rang out to the sound of Monday Morning, parents nationwide were faced with the otherwise routine task of driving their children to school in the aftermath of the chillingly surreal events of last week. There is no doubt that these thoughts lingered in the minds of more than just a few of them, just as the fleeting hugs that were exchanged as children scampered out the back doors of SUVs and sedans lingered in a slightly longer and tighter embrace than usual.
Yet in a few short weeks, after the Christmas Trees have been "de-tinseled" and the gifts (and re-gifts) have been put away and/or.....well, re-gifted, the Gospel Readings will focus on Matthew and in particular the early years of Jesus' Life on Earth. It is here where we will revisit the story of King Herod and the Magi, who are sent to Judea on Herod's Orders in search of this rumored newborn King of the Jews.
Herod has bad intentions. Really bad intentions. The Baby Jesus' life was suddenly in severe peril, as Herod viewed this newborn King as a threat to his throne. Joseph and Mary, having been tipped off by an angel of the Lord, fled to Egypt with their Son. Upon hearing of the newborn Jesus' vanishing, Herod orders the murder of all young boys two years and younger in the town of Bethlehem.
Never before has this "Massacre of the Innocents" been more poignant. Whereas Herod's psychopathic edict has often been overlooked in the bigger, happier picture, that of Jesus' Houdini-like escape from the wrath of the jealous and insecure King, churchgoers far and wide might stop for a moment to reflect on the mere notion that a ruling King could decree such an unthinkable order (in an eerie irony, some Biblical Scholars believe that the Death Toll wrought in the relatively small town of Bethlehem by this massacre tallied 20, the same as Newtown, however this is widely open to serious and wide ranging debate).
Now of course times were a little bit different during Jesus' infancy. There were no celebrities or pro athletes with Twitter Feeds, quick to offer their "prayers and condolences to the victims and their families". The Bethlehem Tabloids did not dispatch photographers to snap tasteless pictures of the carnage, nor did Herod's dry cleaner or coffee shop barista eagerly emerge from the shadows seeking a book deal with claims that "he seemed like a regular guy whenever he dropped by the shop. Pretty good tipper for a King too".
But the prevailing theme remains: There has never been a shortage of evil in this World. Nazism, Apartheid, Terrorism, the Congo Free State, the Rape of Nanking, Ethnic Cleansing, Slavery, Fascism, the Killing Fields and all the way back to the Hunnic Empire just to name a few. Our attempts to rank them in order of atrocity would be on par with asking an inmate on Death Row if he prefers to be electrocuted via an AC or DC powered Chair.
Those who seek to live a Christ-centered life are faced with a choice of good vs. evil as well, but it's typically a much more subtle series of events and choices as the days and weeks rush by like a youthful river. This Advent Season has served as a reminder that the time is near. We must prepare and perhaps just as importantly, we must decide who we are and what we stand for.
Do we believe that in the end, good conquers evil and it's all because of that newborn Baby, who narrowly slipped through Herod's fingertips, ethereal mercury for the souls of those believers in need of spiritual nourishment.
In times of severe sorrow, whether I am the one suffering of said sorrow or I am relegated to watch helplessly as others (loved ones or otherwise) are faced with such intense suffering, I am reminded of the apocalyptic Book of Revelation (21:4) which states "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."
May those suffering in the aftermath of Newtown or any other calamity receive comfort in these words, particularly as we wait in joyful anticipation of the coming of Jesus this Christmas.